Model Meredith Hattam wrote an essay for Fashionista this week, in which she addressed her experience working on contract in China, a surprisingly large market for models that are otherwise based in major fashion cities. Of the time she spent in China, Hattam, who is a member of NYC's Model Alliance, says: “My life modeling in China is not what you typically read about. It’s the dregs of the modeling world, the bottom rung of the high-fashion ladder … Yet these obscure industry offshoots — usually located in Asia, India and Europe — comprise much of the international modeling economy.” Catch more below and the rest at Fashionista.
We’re sitting at a table in our train’s dilapidated dining car, somewhere on the border of Inner Mongolia, en route from Beijing to Chengdu, China — a 30-hour commute. Sixteen-year-old Lana is quietly salting a hard-boiled egg. Eggs—and only eggs—are all she’ll eat for the next 10 days, but not because of any dietary restriction. Our modeling agency has cut her weekly allowance, as she’s exceeded the body measurements clearly defined in her three-month contract. She has yielded to what, in industry-speak, is called “getting fat,” and must now take drastic measures to reverse the damage.
Each week, back in Beijing, where our agency is based, every model’s measurements are taken by our agency’s owner, Alina* (named changed), a Ukrainian ex-model. On Monday mornings, she calls us into her office one-by-one and shuts the door, wrapping a measuring tape around our bodies. “Stand perfectly still,” she says. “Feet together, back straight.” No tights are allowed, which might hide bloating. Gaining more than 3cm on your bust, waist, or hips was a breach of contract and grounds to be sent home. At 5’11, Lana’s* hips are now 96cm—or 38”, a size 8 U.S. (something that would qualify her as a plus-size model stateside.) When she arrived in Beijing from the Ukraine, they measured 91cm, a size 4 U.S. Lana had broken the rules, and as a result, her weekly allowance (referred to as “pocket money”) of 500 RMB (about $80 USD) has been cut.
Sixteen. The age your body develops on its own accord, stunted and shamed by a simple contract. If Lana was back in high school, this change may have been unremarkable, easily solved by a few new pairs of jeans. In Beijing, it is measured, weighed, pinched, prodded, recorded, analyzed and publicly scorned.